EPISTLE TO THE READER.
BY this short ensuing treatise, thou wilt perceive the subject of it,—viz.: The Light of Christ in Man, as the Manifestation of God's Love for Man's Happiness. Now, forasmuch as this is the peculiar testimony and characteristic of the people called Quakers,—their great fundamental in religion,—that by which they have been distinguished from other professors of Christianity in their time, and to which they refer all people about faith, worship, and practice both in their ministry and writings,—that as the fingers shoot out of the hand, and the branches from the body of the tree,— so true religion, in all the parts and articles of it, springs from this divine principle in man. And because the prejudices of some are very great against this people and their way; and that others, who love their seriousness and commend their good life, are yet, through mistakes, or want of inquiry, under jealousy of their unsoundness in some points of faith; and that there are not a few in all persuasions which desire earnestly to know and enjoy God in that sensible manner this people speak of, and who seem to long after a state of holiness and acceptance with God, but are under doubts and despondings of their attaining it, from the want they find in themselves of inward power to enable them, and are unacquainted with this efficacious agent which God hath given and appointed for their supply.
For these reasons and motives, know, reader, I have taken in hand to write this small tract of the nature and virtue of the light of Christ within man, and what and where it is, and for what end, and therein of the religion of the people called Quakers; that, at the same time, all people may be informed of their true character, and what true religion is, and the way to it, in this age of high pretences and as deep irreligion ; that so the merciful visitation of the God of light and love, (more especially to these nations,) both immediately and instrumentally for the promotion of piety, (which is religion indeed,) may no longer be neglected by the inhabitants thereof, but that they may come to see and say, with heart and mouth, this is a dispensation of love and life from God to the world; and this poor people, that we have so much despised, and so often trod upon, and treated as the off-scouring of the earth, are the people of God and children of the Most High. Bear with me, reader; I know what I say, and am not high-minded, but fear; for I write with humility towards God, though with confidence towards thee; not that thou shouldst believe upon my authority nothing less, for that's not to act upon knowledge, but trust, but that thou shouldst try and approve what I write; for that is all I ask, as well as all I need for thy conviction and my own justification. The whole, indeed, being but a Scriptural experiment upon the soul, and therefore seeks for no implicit credit, because it is self-evident to them that will uprightly try it.
And when thou, reader, shalt come to be acquainted with this principle, and the plain and happy teachings of it, thou wilt with us admire thou shouldst live so long a stranger to that which was so near thee, and as much wonder that other folks should be so blind as not to see it, as formerly thou thoughtest us singular for obeying it. The day, I believe, is at hand that will declare this with an uncontrollable authority, because it will be with an unquestionable evidence.
I have done, reader, with this preface when I have told thee:—first, that I have stated the principle and opened, as God has enabled me, the nature and virtue of it in religion, wherein the common doctrines and articles of the Christian religion are delivered and improved, and about which I have endeavoured to express myself in plain and proper terms, and not in figurative, allegorical or doubtful phrases, that so I may leave no room for an equivocal or double sense; but that the truth of the subject I treat upon may appear easily and evidently to every common understanding. Next, I have confirmed what I writ by Scripture, reason, and the effects of it upon so great a people, whose uniform concurrence in the experience and practice thereof, through all times and sufferings since a people, challenge the notice and regard of every serious reader. Thirdly, I have written briefly, that so it might be every one's money and reading; and, much in a little is best, when we see daily that the richer people grow, the less money or time they have for God or religion; and perhaps those that would not buy a large book may find in their hearts to give away some of these for their neighbour's good, being little and cheap. Be serious, reader, be impartial, and then be as inquisitive as thou canst, and that for thine own soul, as well as the credit of this most misunderstood and abused people; and the God and Father of lights and spirits so bless thine, in the perusal of this short treatise, that thou may'st receive real benefit by it, to his glory and thine own comfort, which is the desire and end of him that wrote it; who is, in the bonds of Christian charity, very much and very ardently, Thy real friend,
[Continued, Chap I.]